At this particular juncture of the 2017 campaign, it’s a bit difficult to provide a general outlook regarding the starting rotation of the Dodgers, mainly because of its present instability. Yet, although the pitching hasn’t been the sole culprit of the club’s first four-game losing streak since May of 2016, it has indeed been ugly as of late, especially in the current series against the Diamondbacks at Chase Field.
During their last 10 games, the Dodgers have lost six — the first time since April that they’ve had a losing record during any 10-game stretch this year. And it also dates back to April since they have lost two consecutive series, a streak which came to an end after Arizona won on both Tuesday and Wednesday.
Some of the most dedicated fans of the Dodgers have been pulling out their hair during this current stretch, blaming the starting pitching, the bullpen, injuries, the lineups, and even the lack of team chemistry — whatever that may entail. But the truth of the matter is that the Dodgers have run into some very good opposing pitching lately, in addition to a few good teams who are in the middle of fighting for spots in the 2017 postseason.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence,” manager Dave Roberts said after Wednesday’s loss. “This time of year, there’s teams that are going in two different directions. These last two teams, the Diamondbacks and the Brewers, are playing for a lot right now and you see the energy, the intent. Even with that, they have to have good pitching and they’re getting it.”
Regardless of the opposition, though, the last two games have been a nightmare from the perspective of the starting rotation. Coming off perhaps the finest outing of his career against the Pirates last Wednesday, Rich Hill was unable to survive four innings in the opener vs. the Diamondbacks, having surrendered six earned runs on eight hits and a walk. In the middle game of the series, also carrying momentum from his last outing in Pittsburgh, Hyun-Jin Ryu was borderline useless after giving up six earned runs on eight hits of his own, including three long balls.
Credit needs to be given to the D-Backs for devising a successful plan of attack against the Dodgers’ starting pitchers; however, it wasn’t hard to see that both the southpaws were missing their desired locations terribly, often leaving the fastball right down the absolute center of the plate.
The good news is that the entire scope of the rotation will change this weekend at San Diego when both Clayton Kershaw and Alex Wood are expected to be activated off the disabled list and rejoin the rotation. Considering the new formation, the weakest piece may be young righty Brock Stewart, who will get another spot-start in Saturday’s early contest. Not that Stewart doesn’t have the skills to succeed, but analysis from recent outings suggests that he could be more effective as an arm out of the bullpen. Nevertheless, the presence of Stewart is required because of the necessity of the doubleheader. Looking around the farm, about the only other option is hard-throwing right-hander Wilmer Font, who we’ve been discussing quite frequently as of late, but somehow still isn’t on the team’s 40-man roster.
Nonetheless, Kersh will start on Friday, followed by Stewart in the early matchup on Saturday and Yu Darvish in the second leg of the doubleheader. Wood will start the finale on Sunday afternoon.
Veteran righty Brandon McCarthy continues to rehab, and hopes to log a few big league starts after rosters expand in September. It’s extremely unlikely that McCarthy figures into the prospective postseason mix, although there may be a remote chance that he could compete for a bullpen role.
As it stands now, so long as all the arms are 110% healthy, a potential playoff rotation could lineup with Kersh taking the ball first, followed by Darvish, then either Wood or Hill in Game 3 and Game 4, if a fourth game would be needed. And, again, based on the assumption that the entire crew is injury-free, Ryu and righty Kenta Maeda may be among the many arms competing for spots in the postseason bullpen.
So, in the end, the future does look a bit brighter, considering the squad’s most recent stretch of brief misfortune. With the media’s daily ramblings (we’re guilty of it here, too) about how this year’s Dodgers were destined to shatter many of baseball’s historical team records, maybe the expectations of a makeshift rotation have been overblown and perceived in an unrealistic context as of late.
Ultimately, a four-game losing streak isn’t the end of the world, especially when there are two standout lefty arms in CK and Wood ready to rally the troops.
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